How do I accept Buddha to become a Buddhist?
The straight answer is, “you don’t have to do so”. Let me explain why.
This is because Buddha is in all of us and not outside of us. We do not have to accept Buddha and invite Him into our life or ourselves. To understand this, we need to know what Buddha is.
Buddha represents the Ultimate Truth. In that respect, He is also known as Dhamakaya. Since the Ultimate Truth is ever-present and everywhere, it is inside us all this while. To know the Ultimate Truth requires wisdom.
Currently, we are unaware of that wisdom inside of us because our mind is clouded by ignorance, cravings, and aversions. (Collectively, known as the 3 poisons or 3 afflictions)
So how do we become Buddhists? How do we tune into this wisdom inside of us? How do we realize that wisdom?
1. We need to make a voluntary conscious decision that we wish to realize that Ultimate Truth. Realizing the Ultimate Truth means attaining Ultimate Happiness. This is known as Enlightenment.
2. Once we are sure that we wish to become enlightened, we need to study and learn how to do that. Buddha’s teachings will teach us how to become enlightened. His teaching is called Dharma.
3. Next, we adopt a mind training method to remove the 3 poisons that are clouding our minds, so that we can see the Ultimate Truth. Then we need to practice regularly and experience the result of happiness ourselves.
4. We have to be aware of people who have succeeded in Attaining enlightenment and be inspired by them. The 1st person was Shakyamuni Buddha and He taught others how to become enlightened too. Since then, countless people had also succeeded. These enlightened disciples (man and woman) are collectively known as the Sangha.
In summary, the first step to becoming a Buddhist is
- to have faith in Buddha being the Enlightened One. Then wanting to become enlightened too, just like Him. Since Buddha taught us how to become Enlightened, Buddha is our teacher. Therefore, we place our trust and faith in Him. This is known as taking refuge in Buddha.
- The teachings of Buddha comprise mental, verbal, and physical practices. We commit ourselves to those practices so that we may become enlightened too. When we live our life according to those principles and practices, it means we are taking refuge in Dharma.
- Practicing Dharma to become enlightened is like any of our endeavors in life. If we associate with people who are skilled and knowledgeable in Dharma, we will have access to good advice and mentorship. Moreover, those who had attained Enlightenment can become our role models and inspiration too. When we do this, we are taking refuge in the Sangha.
As you can see, the above process is a highly personal process that relies upon our determination to be enlightened. Our conviction in taking Buddhism as our spiritual path and our way of life.
In the olden days, people will inform Buddha or his disciples of their commitment to follow Buddha’s spiritual path. In our current time, people still do the same by informing a Buddhist monk/nun. The monk/nun may then instruct you on how to say a refuge prayer in their presence. The purpose of doing this is really about communicating our conviction to another fellow Buddhist. Since the monks and nuns are living a lifestyle that is similar to Buddha, we feel that they are the closest living representation of Buddha.
If there is no Buddhist monk/nun in your place of residence, you can do so in the presence of a Buddhist layperson. And if there are no Buddhist living in your area, you can simply say your refuge prayer in front of a Buddha image. Any Buddha images that you googled and appearing on your computer screen will do the job!
However, our internet is making communication really convenient. Therefore you can also have a zoom session and say the refuge prayer to a monk / nun via the internet.
Taking a formal refuge in the presence of a Buddhist monk / nun is just a formality. It is good to have but not absolutely necessary. It is helpful because it leaves a memorable impression in our minds. It makes our refuge more formal and special? Like a wedding? (hope that’s a good analogy)
In reality, what is more important, are our practices and how we improve ourselves from that point onwards until we reach enlightenment. Taking refuge can also be a good Buddhist practice because we are reminding ourselves of our commitments and goals. Therefore, it is good to say our refuge prayer every day.
SO WHAT IS A REFUGE PRAYER?
Just repeat the following 3 times!
- I take refuge in Buddha
- I take refuge in Dharma
- I take refuge in Sangha
You are a Buddhist after you repeat the above with full awareness of what it means. REALLY!
Hope this article helps to clarify the doubt of anybody who wishes to become a Buddhist. If you haven’t noticed by now, Buddhism is not like any other religion. Buddha is not a spiritual boss-like figurehead, sitting on a throne in some fantasy realm, craving to recruit your souls into his domain?
May all be well and happy.